Palestinians have right to Jerusalem as capital, says Saudi's King Salman

Saudi Arabia's King Salman presides over a cabinet meeting in Riyadh on Dec 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - Palestinians have the right to Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, Saudi King Salman said Wednesday (Dec 13), echoing calls at an Islamic summit in Istanbul from which he had stayed away.

"The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people's legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital," the King said.

The King renewed his condemnation of President Donald Trump's decision, saying it "represents an extreme bias against the rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem that have been guaranteed by international resolutions".

Salman's address to the kingdom's Consultative Council came as the world's main pan-Islamic body held an emergency summit in Istanbul in response to last week's US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

A draft declaration prepared for a summit of Muslim leaders from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday said they considered Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a sign of US' withdrawal from its role as a sponsor of Middle East peace.

The draft statement said leaders, ministers and officials from more than 50 Muslim countries "declare East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and invite all countries to recognise the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital."

A copy of the draft declaration, tweeted by Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the meeting rejected and condemned the US move "in the strongest terms".

It described the US decision as "a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts, an impetus (for) extremism and terrorism, and a threat to international peace and security."

At Wednesday's summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the world to recognise east Jerusalem as the "capital of Palestine", while Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas warned there could be no peace in the Middle East until such a move was made.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - a Saudi arch foe - used his speech to make a thinly veiled jab at Washington's Arab allies. "Some countries in our region are in cooperation with the United States and the Zionist regime in determining the fate of Palestine," he said.

Jordanian King Abdullah II, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait and the presidents of Afghanistan, Indonesia and Sudan all joined the summit.

But Saudi Arabia, which hosts the pan-Islamic bloc's secretariat, sent only a senior foreign ministry official.

Salman made an oblique reference to Iran in his speech.

"The kingdom is working with its partners to deal with the phenomenon of interfering in the internal affairs of others to fan confessional tensions and to destabilise the region". He said Saudi Arabia was "at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and drying up its funding".

Salman gave strong backing to reforms led by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including a wide-ranging programme to restructure the kingdom's oil-dependent economy and moves to end longstanding bans on cinemas and women driving.

"Your country seeks to develop its present, build its future and move forward on the path of development, modernisation and continuous development in a manner that does not contradict our values and constants," the King said.

"Our message to all is that there is no place among us for radicals who see moderation as a sign of decay and exploit our tolerant faith to achieve their goals."

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